The UK is in the shameful position of being 21st out of 30 countries in a study of broadband internet access adoption.

The report by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) found the UK has fewer broadband lines per 100 inhabitants than Iceland, Portugal and even the Czech Republic.

Telco watchdog Oftel is bullish about broadband's future, but admits there is a problem.

"We are moving forward and have taken a lot of decisive action," said an Oftel spokesperson. "According to our benchmarking UK prices are less favourable than in many countries and hence take up is slower."

The rate of connection in the UK is relatively static, according to the report, with BT hooking up 54,000 people since the service was launched last August compared to South Korea where 100,000 users are connected each month.

"The framework for ADSL is now in place," said an Oftel spokesperson. "There are now 139 ADSL-enabled exchanges, [allowing] 50 percent of the country to take up broadband services, and we believe competition will eventually drive down prices."

"It's very difficult to make international comparisons," said a spokesperson at BT Ignite, the arm of BT responsible for DSL rollout. "The quality in other countries, for example, may not be as good; this is not taken into consideration in assessing numbers."

According to the OECD, less than one in 10,000 people in the UK had permanent high-speed connection at the end of 2000.

Oftel expects high-speed access to be available for the whole of the UK by 2003.